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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

The Jimmy Buffett Debacle

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

The Jimmy Buffett Debacle

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hugo reyes--dude
This happened Thursday-before-last, 28 June 2007. Please be forewarned that there is much angst involved. This is a sad story.

Many moons ago, a breathless Bobby called Dawn and informed her that Jimmy Buffett tickets were going on sale in a few hours, but he had a meeting, and would she see if she could get on Ticketmaster's site to wait and order two? Not surprisingly, given our aquatic inclinations, both Bobby and I are Buffett fans. Going to a Buffett concert is always a challenge as they sell out quickly but definitely on the list of must-see shows for music fans.

After waiting online, I got a pair of tickets and--ecstatic--emailed Bobby to let him know.

Well, the concert was the day before settlement. Somehow, come Thursday, I had a bad feeling about it ...

Keep in mind that by this point, Bobby and I had been working pretty much non-stop for a week. I'd managed to keep myself on a natural high (what we psychofools like to call hypomania), but I was slowly crashing. Besides my job, I was packing the apartment and attempting to put together Seven in '07 in less than a week. I was sleeping no more than four or five hours each night.

The concert was at the Nissan Pavilion in northern Virginia. Strike one. I'd never been to this particular venue, but Bobby had seen Dave Matthews' Band there a few years earlier. Nonetheless, any trip to northern Virginia is a bad idea. Besides being the hive of beltway traffic from Washington, DC, Virginia's roads actually manage to make less sense than Maryland's, and as a native Marylander--trust me--that is a feat.

Come Thursday--concert day--I was exhausted. Packing was finished, but I was still looking at a good four hours of work on Seven in '07 that night before losing Internet the next day. I got home, tired and crabby, hoping to squeeze in an hour's worth of work before leaving. No, Bobby informed me, we had to leave now.

"WTF," I said (only, believe you me, I said the words), "the concert doesn't start for four hours!"

"We'll need it," he said.

This started an argument. I thought this was rather ridiculous and expected that it would take an hour-and-a-half tops, and we'd be stuck in a parking lot for two hours with nothing to do. Keep in mind, Nissan Pavilion is 70 miles (113 km), all highway, which means that it should take no more than an hour.

"Bring a book then," Bobby told me.

So I stormed around, ripping open boxes and trying to find a book. Finally, I found a book of Stephen King short stories. Bobby asked--annoyed with me (as well he should be; overambitious and high-strung webmasters are not fun to live with as they stare down the barrel of a major project due date)--if I just didn't want to go.

I should have said, "No, let's stay home."

But no. I got aghast. "Of course I want to go!"

By the time we left, it was 4:30. 3.5 hours till concert time.

We got on the road, and both our moods improved. We switched between Buffett on CD and Radio Margaritaville on the satellite radio. We'd been looking forward to this concert for months; it was exciting! We made it to the Capital Beltway, and traffic slowed to a crawl, but this was to be expected, and all things told--Thursday afternoon at rush hour--we were making decent time. It looked like I'd be cracking open my book. We crawled onto I-66. We'd been in the car for one hour by now. 2.5 hours till concert time.

An hour later, we reached the exit for Nissan Pavilion. 1.5 hours till concert time. We followed the signs directing us to the Pavilion and joined a long line of cars waiting on a road that (we presumed) led to the concert venue.

It was growing overcast, and it was very dark on the horizon. "You know it's going to rain," I told Bobby, "because that will be our luck."

Recall that we've had three outdoor concerts so far this summer. During Heaven and Hell, we sat outside in a cold drizzle for all of Black Sabbath. Riverdance was held at Wolf Trap, which--being government-owned--allowed us to cancel our tickets the day of the show when there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms. Only a few weeks later, we were waiting on line for our third outdoor show when the first drops of rain began to splatter against the windshield. We'd brought snacks and sodas and were chowing down, sitting in a line of cars that moved about five feet per minute. We'd been sitting for a half-hour and had barely moved.

One hour till concert time.

We crept along. I began to get really irritated. Bobby wasn't feeling much better. Finally, we crested a hill--having gone no more than a quarter-mile in about forty-five minutes--and we saw the source of the problem.

The road did not lead to a venue but rather to a traffic light that allowed cars onto the road that (I assume) did lead to the venue. The problem was that the traffic light was set to favor the other road, so it would turn green maybe every three minutes, let three cars through, then turn red again. Keeping in mind that this is the only entrance to the Nissan Pavilion, one can understand the chaos that ensued. As we crept closer, three cars at a time, I saw flashing lights at the intersection. Thank Eru, there was a police officer to direct traffic!



In all honesty, I think the cop was sitting there to ticket people who ran the red light to get to the concert. He sure as hell was not directing traffic or attempting in any way to ease the passage of literally hundreds of cars to this concert.

Meanwhile, we have on Radio Margaritaville and lightning is slicing open the sky. We were hoping that the show would be called off or postponed on account of the storms because it was becoming readily apparent that we weren't going to make it on time. We weren't even halfway down the road, and it was a half-hour before showtime.

So, to recap: Seventy miles driven in three hours and we sit--less than a fucking mile from the concert--moving at the rate of about one car-length per minute, watching a cop rack up his monthly quota for traffic citations while we burn our gas and clutch our tickets, futilely but hopefully, in our sweaty fists.

Here comes eight o'clock. Jimmy Buffett takes the stage. We hear it all ... live on the radio. We still have at least a half-hour on the road--possibly longer--before making it to the light. Then parking, walking to the venue ... we were looking to be an hour late. It was pouring down rain. Bobby turned to me and asked what I wanted to do. We'd finally reached a point where we could make a U-turn in the road and, yes, head back home.

I told him that I didn't want to make that call. We sat looking at each other, wipers going full tilt at the pouring rain, and I said, "I think the fact that neither of us wants to answer tells us what both of us want the answer to be."

We were hungry, tired, and crabby. Neither of us wanted to wait another hour to sit in the pouring rain to watch half a concert thanks to the incompetence of Virginia concert venues and the local law enforcement. (Because right around the corner from Nissan is the Patriot Center, and that is nearly as bad.)

So we turned around.

It was one of those moments, watching the endless line of cars (most of which--at the rate the queue was moving--would never make it to the concert) zip by on the other side of the road, having been one of them for more than an hour and thinking, "I'm giving up on seeing Buffett. I have the fucking tickets right here in my hand, and I'm giving up"; it was one of those moments that I know is inconsequential in the larger world scheme but made me want to bawl like a baby nonetheless. It was heartbreaking.

Almost four hours and we never even made it to a destination that should have taken just over an hour to reach.

So we start home. We're moving really well on I-66 ... then we hit the Capital Beltway. Traffic stops. Mind you, we've been in the car without a break to stretch or pee or anything for four hours now. We're tired and annoyed.

What was the cause of the backup? There was a van pulled over to the side of the road. OMG, right? Well, everyone has to stop and look. This is northern Viriginia where people spend time in three places: work, in the car driving to and from work, and in their beds sleeping while they wait to get up for work the next morning. People need something to do with their lives, so they stare at accidents. Or vans pulled over to the side of the road. Oh, and they talk on their cellphones and punch in the Crackberries, about work, of course.

Anyone who lives in an area that doesn't have a lot of traffic, thank Eru or the stars or the Great White Buffalo or just your plain dumb luck because I don't think that I can describe the combination of frustration, rage, and despair that builds up as you enter your fifth hour in a car making a trip that shouldn't take much more than two. We'd now been in the car for more than five hours. I nearly screamed for joy when we crossed back into Maryland and were only fifteen minutes from the exit off the interstate that would take us home.

On the drive home, of course, we listened to the concert. Live. On the radio.

Shortly, we passed what Bobby and I have coined Struggle Street. It's actually Maryland Route 198; we call it Struggle Street because 1) the UPS Center is there, and every time Bobby has to pick up a package there, something is wrong: they've lost the package or shipped it on a truck or they try to give him something for Jose Bombadillo and he's Bobby Felagund and 2) we did our scuba training in a pool off of Struggle Street, i.e. we've both almost drowned there on several occasions. Given our night so far, we both laughed, Haha, we ought to get off on Struggle Street, yeah, that'd be a hoot prolly be in a five-car pile-up hahahahaha. Struggle Street will indeed take us home, but we've always preferred Route 32, which is about two miles past Struggle Street. As we passed the last exit for Struggle Street, brake lights began to flare ahead of us. You know that cliche, "got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach"? That's exactly what I felt.

One freakin' mile from our exit, they have two of four lanes of Interstate 95 shut down so that they can repave the righthand lane. We've now been in the car for more than five hours. We're still twenty minutes from home but we're less than a minute from our exit. We can see it (much like we could see the stupid cop watching the traffic back up at the red light going into Nissan Pavillion).

Bobby actually yelled in rage at the road. I said, "I'm going to cry." He thought I was kidding. Nope. I meant it. I bawled. No, it wasn't just about the stupid concert or being exhausted and wasting a night sitting in traffic but many weeks worth of uncertainty and frustration and sheer exhaustion suddenly coming out. I cried for about ten minutes, till Bobby made an illegal maneuver to get us to our exit. Afterwards, my head felt very stuffed up, but otherwise, I felt better, like I could handle the last leg of frustrations--settlement, moving, et cetera--in the days to come.

At ten o'clock, we reached Ellicott City. We stopped at Uno's to have supper. I tried to be cheerful, but it was hard, and neither of us was much in the mood for laughter. Our last night in Ellicott City, and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

When we came out, the concert had ended, so it probably went on for about two hours. So we maybe would have seen half of it, then faced two hours trying to get out of the single road back to the highway and then the perilous drive home. As heartbroken I was at having to miss Buffett, I still think that we made the right choice in turning around when we did. But I was beyond angry at the incompetence of the venue and the local law enforcement in how they handled things. No, ruining an eager young couple's night might not lead to the ruination of the world, but it's still not a nice thing to do.

It was kind of funny because Bobby had done the walk-through of the house that afternoon, and he'd told everyone about the concert and everyone was insanely jealous. So, the next morning at settlement, people would come in one by one, their eyes would brighten, and they'd ask, "How was Buffett?" As more and more people arrived, the new arrival would ask and everyone else would chorus, "Don't ask."

I keep telling Bobby that this is the sort of thing we'll laugh about in years' time. But even with a little distance now, I have trouble seeing the humor.
  • Oh, hell, that just sucks beyond imagination. I'm sitting here and thinking of exactly how awful that must have been and...I can't think. *bangs forehead against desk in sympathy* For some reason as soon as I saw 'police officer' I just knew he was going to be useless (and no, I hadn't seen the "Right?!" after it at the time, heh). Everything just kept going so wrong for you that day, it's incomprehensible, my head's aching just thinking about it. You have a lot more patience than me, I can tell you. I wouldn't have just cried, I'd have broken something. Preferably that idiotic cop's nose. (Although for someone like, er, me, that would have been grounds for a lot more than...hey, I wonder, what is the penalty for assaulting a police officer?) Wait a sec, gah! What am I rambling about?! Stupid law force.

    On a brighter note, it's wonderful that you're (sorta kinda at the moment?) back and yay for the house! *confetti* It sounds awesome and so much more peaceful. Waiting for pictures and The Ballad of the Hardwood Floors! ;) *hugs*
    • Believe me, I wanted to break something ... but I was trapped in a tin can for more than five hours; aside from myself and Bobby, there wasn't much else to break. ;)

      Also, I have not forgotten about your videos and I am so sorry for taking so long to reply. My Internet availability is spotty at best at the mo' (I am currently on the back patio in a lawn chair stealing wireless from a neighbor ... unfortunately, it is also very close to where Alex poops >:-Þ) and I don't have a sound card on my laptop. So I will have to try to jump on my husband's ... but I have not forgotten you. :)

      *hugs back*
  • I'll cry with you, that would be a huge disappointment to miss Jimmy Buffet.

    I'm wondering why promoters and the arena operators allow this to continue? Probably because they've sold tickets, but they're missiing out on concessions and parking. They should wise up, it just sounds ridiculous and pretty soon no one will want to attend an event there because they can't actually get there!

    Everytime traffic backs up, I start thinking that there should be some blood on the road - but at least I do feel guilty when that is the case.
    • Around here, people back of traffic for anything and everything. Though I'm sure this is the same pretty much anywhere; people and any sort of "excitement" (and I use that word loosely) is never a good mix.

      The problem with concert venues in our area is that there aren't many options in Bal'more. We have Merriweather ... and that's about it. (And Buffett is banned from Merriweather for clipping a security guard with his tour bus. o.O) So all the big acts go to the northern Virginia venues, which is itself problematic because of Washington traffic. But of the four major venues in northern Virginia, three are pains in the ass to get to. (Wolf Trap is the lone exception; I love Wolf Trap ... and it's owned by the federal guv'ment! Who knew they could do something right?) Not long ago, the LotR symphony was at the Patriot Center in Virginia, and on one of my mailing lists, I warned out-of-state visitors to allow two to three hours to get from the Beltway to the arena. It's about a twenty-minute drive ordinarily. I refused to go ... and that says something, if I refuse to go to the LotR symphony. ;)
  • I have no idea who Jimmy Buffett is, but man that whole night sucks! I'd probably get permanent health problems from missing a concert I wanted to go to like that. :( And I swear traffic lights were made to raise blood pressures rather than to control traffic. Why can't their problems ever be in our favor? (Heck, I'm still majorly pissed off that a broken traffic light outside of McDonald's meant my food was cold by the time I got it home a month or two ago!) *kicks that cop*
  • This made me so sad, not because I'm a Buffethead (totally not) but because you two so, soooo deserved to relax after the weeks you've had lately. I hope you're at least able to kick back now, somewhat, in your new abode (I know it's probably not finished yet, but take a cue from Kirsty and me and just wait 3.5 months and still have furniture to put together! ;-).

    I remember going to see Disturbed (and Korn, et al) at the Patriot Center with you, Bobby, and my MAC co-worker Frank. Do you recall? Because I remember a verrry similar stretch of road that was clogged with nothing but concert traffic. not. moving. at. all. We didn't sit there as long as you did for Buffett (I don't think) but I distinctly remember missing the opening band or two at that concert.

    I also remember making remarkably good time on the way to Dulles Airport - near rush hour, no less - until we hit the motherfutchin' Capital Beltway. And stopped.

    Bastard roads and poor planning... Commiserations.
    • Chain Fucking Bridge Road. Yes I know (and remember) it well! When the LotR symphony was there two years ago, I was on that list of people meeting up to see the symphonies, and I 1) refused to go to the Patriot Center, even for LotR and 2) warned those who were attending to allow two to three hours to fight traffic on Chain Bridge Road. Nissan Pavilion is now on my list of venues where Jesus Christ himself could appear live and I'd have zero interest. (Now Maedhros ... ;) I got Bobby Duran Duran tickets at the Patriot Center, and I didn't even enjoy the show that much on account of the crappy venue. They were much better at Pier Six ... and it rained for that concert!

      That particular Disturbed concert (HFStical) was at the same time as the sniper attacks. Remember all the roads that were closed and we were wondering if we'd even get to go? Then everyone: "Don't go; it's not worth it!" Of course, we went, and lo! We didn't even get shot. (Though we might have wished for a sniper to take us out on Chain Bridge Road. ;)
  • Aw, boo boo... *pets you*

    What a pit...

    I love Uno's though... We don't have 'em out here.

    Just trying to be positive after such an angsty tale... *hugs*
  • Oh my goodness, that sounds so awful. *hugs* I'm so sorry! Sometimes you wonder who plans these things, putting concerts that popular in places with only one road. Do they expect music fans to camp in front of the venue the day before?
    (Wait, they probably do.)
    • It was pretty awful. *hugs back* And I generally like to find the humor even in utter badness--and I'm pretty damned good at it too--but Bobby plays Jimmy Buffett all of the time in the car, and as soon as I hear the first bar of the first song on the CD, I still get a hurt/angry pang. Booo.

      Buffett fans usually do tailgate before a show, in fact. :) So I suppose that they would say that the true "parrotheads" (the slang for Buffett fans) would have been there hours early, out grilling in the parking lot. But yeah, some of us had to work and had just bought a house and annoying stuff like that. ;)
  • That sounds like a perfectly awful evening. Utterly wasted in the car, of all places.

    On the other hand, in years to come, you'll get a lot more mileage out of the story than you ever would have gotten from the concert.
    • I do hope so! We've already told it about twenty times already because everyone insists on asking, "How was the concert??" It does make a good story, even if I can't see the humor in it quite yet.
  • *hugs* I already told you, but the patience Fëanorian message made me feel like an utter fangurl of them ;) Good job girl, if I'd knew it stressed you out so much, I'd insisted more on helping you.

    You know, just think of this, the coming time you can relax, enjoy your beautiful new home and let nature do its work to give you a serene environment. Its time to reap now.

    As for the concert and knowing that something you so wanted to do was just in reach... I know that feeling... the knot in your stomach, tears threatening to fall and then you just snap.

    I just gave Nelyo a knapsack with goodies to make you relax and I told him not to go into that - filthy (air polluted) city as he puts it - again, but to seek you in the country side. *huggles*
    • Nelyo arrived. ;) He's good at dustmopping dog hair and painting rooms, I've learned! :^D

      Thank you, Rhapsy, always for your kind words. Seven in '07 wasn't too bad for me; I really did enjoy it and was beyond grateful for you, Sirielle, Oshun, Tarion, and my sister during that time. (Did you read the acknowledgments page, I hope? :) It was definitely one of those times where I thought, we aren't as big and well-known as some of the other Tolkien archives, but we have such a great group. I'm grateful for you all. :)
  • Poor, baby. I have nightmares that repeat a very similar experience. They invovle being caught in gridlock traffic coming from Cuenevaca, Mexico back into Mexico City on Sunday night! Bumper-to-bumper Sunday-evening traffic, the two-hour drive could become a six-hour drive and, although I always swore each time was the last, the idea of staying until Sunday night (instead of leaving mid-afternoon) was always too appealing. (I still have the dream occasionally when particularly stressed although the original experiences are long past.)

    There always seems to be karma involved in these things too--in retrospect the prequel (the oh-it-will-only-take-two-hours element and your exhaustion going into the whole episode!) always seems essential to the outcome of the whole thing. There is fate and foreshadowing in this scary tale as well. I knew the ending as soon as I started reading it!
    • I suppose my ways as a writer reflect in my journal as well. ;) People have told me that I have an interesting life, based on reading my LiveJournal. I insist it's really not. It's just the ordinary crap that happens to us all with a bit of sarcasm and melodrama tossed in. ;)

      Yikes, I understand that kind of drive. Sounds like coming back from Ocean City to Baltimore on a Sunday night. Oh, but it's hard to leave early in the afternoon, when it's proper, to avoid traffic coming across the Bay Bridge!
  • *hugs you, hard*

    That sounds like a thoroughly crappy night. If it's any help, you made my own not-so-fun day yesterday seem a little less bad. ;-) Weird how the human mind works....

    But really, I just wanted to comment to say I hope you have relaxed, and that I think breaking down and crying after weeks of moving + fandom + a night of traffic crap is a completely normal reaction. I've cried over less.

    And I'm really, really sorry you missed the concert. You deserved it.
    • Thanks, Marta, always for your kind words. :) Believe me, I've cried over less too! I cry over stories and people who don't really exist all the time *ahem* ;) But then, in real life, I'm proud when I don't cry. Like when a guy T-boned my car on my way back from skating class last year and fled the scene, and I shed not one tear. Though I wanted to!

      But yes, things are better now. :) We have a house in a semblance of order; it's clean and the essential things have been put away at least. And there's nothing wrong with being able to sit in my big backyard and listen to the wind in the trees and the windchimes (and yelling occasionally at Alex for digging in the gardens) ... no complaints there. :)
  • Føj for helvede for en aften! (Sorry it is easier to swear with feeling in my own language - rest assured that it expresses my sympathy, even if it is a little rude.. :)) That must have been so frustrating! The worst part is that you were unable to do anything about it yourselves - that powerless feeling is the worst ever! I have felt the same when sitting in busses in Africa, though I quickly learned never to expect to get anywhere within a specific amount of time..

    I was just thinking about you today. You know that dream I had that you and Bobby were in Denmark? Sometimes when I'm riding my bike to work in the morning, my mind sort of wanders of where it will, and when I caught up with it this morning, I discovered that it was busy planning what I should take you to see if you ever visited Denmark! ;) Hehehe, so you know, if ever you come to these parts, I'm ready for you! :)

    About the breaking down and crying - sometimes it is the only way to let of some steem, and it is a pretty harmless way too. And you come out on the other side feeling a little lighter for having given in to the pressure a while. The seven in 07 was/is completely wonderful, so at the very least you didn't work so hard for nothing.
    • Føj for helvede for en aften, indeed! :^D I have no idea what it means, but I love the look of it! ;)

      You know, my sister lives in England now, so I have good excuse to see all of Europe. ;) I hope to visit Denmark someday, and I will definitely take you up on that tour! Likewise, should you ever find yourself on the central east coast of the US, around Baltimore/DC, know that you will have a host. We may not have Elven kings or anywhere near the rich depth of history that you Europeans have, but Maryland is one of the best US states, in my slightly biased opinion of course. ;)

      Also, thanks for your kind words for Seven in '07! I had a lot of fun working on it (even if I could have used some more time ...) and am pleased with how it turned out. And I love your icon because "Ambarussa, bedtime!" was one of my favorite art pieces in the project. *cuddles Ambarussa*
  • Eww, I've only ever heard horror stories about Nissan Pavilion, never anything good. One of the kids I knew in high school got into an accident on the way to the venue for a concert, and subsequently missed said concert.

    Anyways, I figured I'd attempt at contact through LiveJournal since contact through cell phone is apparently futile. Sorry about last Monday, we got up in time to meet you guys at EC, but Andrea got sick, and such. I'm assuming that Bobby has gotten my myriad of messages, but you know what they say about assuming.
  • "The Jimmy Buffett Debacle" or "Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell: There and Back Again."

    What a freakin' horror story! Honestly, this tale far and away exceeds anything that the good Mr. King or Charles de Lint can offer as far as making my colon spasm in reflexive terror. One of the worst things about urban/suburban life is Getting Stuck in Traffic. But man, between the thwarted destination and the glaring Incompetent Boobery of local traffic control, well, it beggars the imagination. My condolences on missing the ol' pirate.

    That was a hell of a compelling story. But damn, woman! Your characteristic injection of sardonic humor makes it difficult to resist the guilt of schadenfreude.

    Thankfully, I have nothing to offer in terms of equivalent traffic terror. Air travel, on the other hand...

    • Sardonic? Me?? Surely, you jest. ;)

      The Baltimore/DC metro area is the birthplace of traffic horror stories. Now I have no significant air-travel horror stories--aside from the rather hair-raising attempt to fly home from Puerto Rico during the same weekend that Maryland got about two feet of rain--but I can well imagine. The US air travel system might represent an even greater degree of across-the-board incompetence and mismanagement than the highway system does. I have a cousin who missed a Caribbean cruise last week due to air-travel mishaps.

      I'm afraid that traffic horrors are becoming quite commonplace for me. It once took almost five hours to make the forty-five-minute drive home from my university in about three inches of snow (because there was a forty-car pileup on I-95, being as Marylanders cannot drive in snow), and another time, I was stuck in the Fort McHenry Tunnel for two hours on a 90-degree day ... and there was a largish spider planted mid-windshield, so I was afraid to open the windows. I might think I am just extraordinarily unlucky, but no, I think the Baltimore/Washington area just sucks that much.
  • Awww *hugs*

    That sounds horrible! :( I hope you're feeling better now, though *hugs*
    • *hugs back* I am, thank you! :) Life is slowly regaining its usual balance ... and I'm happy to have the Jimmy Buffett Debacle firmly past-tense! :)
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